About this blog

My name is Bill Hirt and I'm a candidate to be a Representative from the 48th district in the Washington State legislature. My candidacy stems from concern the legislature is not properly overseeing the WSDOT and Sound Transit East Link light rail program. I believe East Link will be a disaster for the entire eastside. ST will spend 5-6 billion on a transportation project that will increase, not decrease cross-lake congestion, violates federal environmental laws, devastates a beautiful part of residential Bellevue, creates havoc in Bellevue's central business district, and does absolutely nothing to alleviate congestion on 1-90 and 405. The only winners with East Link are the Associated Builders and Contractors of Western Washington and their labor unions.

This blog is an attempt to get more public awareness of these concerns. Many of the articles are from 3 years of failed efforts to persuade the Bellevue City Council, King County Council, east side legislators, media, and other organizations to stop this debacle. I have no illusions about being elected. My hope is voters from throughout the east side will read of my candidacy and visit this Web site. If they don't find them persuasive I know at least I tried.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

East Link's $285 Million Operating Deficit

The previous post explained that East Link will require 8.888 hours to accommodate the 40,000 transit riders Sound Transit intends to switch to trains once East Link begins operating in 2023 and routing it to Lynnwood will add $116.9 Million in annual operating costs.  This post explains why East Link operating costs from Redmond into Seattle will be such a financial “black hole”.

East Link operation will eventually include the 26 miles from Redmond to the University as well as the 12.8-mile Lynnwood extension or 38.8 miles for a 77.6 mile round trip.   ST East Link current operating plans call for 484 cars per day during the workweek for 37,558 light rail car miles per day.  Using ST 2014 budget estimate of  $22.48 per car mile gives a daily operating cost of $844,313 (excluding depreciation),

ST has projected East Link ridership of 50,000 daily with 40,000 coming from terminated eastside bus routes.  The Lynnwood portion of the East Link route will attract some riders at the expense of fewer riding a Central Link extension with far more capacity than needed.  Thus, those riding East Link there don’t reflect “added” light rail customers.

Dividing the daily operating cost ($844,313) by ST projected ridership (50,000) gives a cost per rider of $16.88 nearly three times the $5.90 cost per Central Link boarder for the 1st quarter of 2014.  Even this number is “optimistic” since many of the 40,000 east side transit riders will be forced by lack of light rail capacity (see 7/19/14 post) to find other ways to reach Seattle during peak commute. 

Assuming $2.50 light rail tolls, each East Link boarder requires a $14.38 subsidy from ST.  (Compared to $3.40 subsidy for Central Link operation).  The 50,000 daily riders will cost ST $719,000 each day to pay for operating costs (without depreciation).  Even this number understates the subsidy since 40,000 of the 50,000 riders are transfers from buses and presumably won't have to pay again.  

The resulting $100,000 loss in daily fares increases the required subsidy to $819,000.  Assuming weekend car miles and ridership are half those levels results in a $4.91 Million cost per week or $255 Million annual subsidy to cover East Link direct operating costs. 

Assuming the 77.6-mile round trip takes 2 hours, sixty light rail cars will be needed for the 4-car trains every 8 minutes.  If the cars cost $5 Million and last 10 years, the annual depreciation will add $30 Million to the operating costs, increasing the total subsidy to $285 Million.

That truly is absurd even for Sound Transit for a cross-lake light rail transportation system that will also gridlock I-90.

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